Ac­tive body, healthy mind

No obstacle can stop you from reach­ing your health and fit­ness goals

Women's Fitness (UK) - - Contents -

No obstacle can stop you from reach­ing your health and fit­ness goals

A to­tal of 11.7m work­ing days were lost in 2015/2016 as a re­sult of peo­ple suf­fer­ing from stress, de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety

L ook­ing af­ter your body and your mind when you’re try­ing to sus­tain an ac­tive life­style isn’t as easy as sim­ply go­ing to the gym ev­ery now and then and throw­ing some let­tuce in with your din­ner. There are a whole host of im­por­tant fac­tors to con­sider in­clud­ing your men­tal well­be­ing, the im­pact of your men­strual cy­cle and deal­ing with in­juries. Dr Juliet Mcgrattan’s new book­sorted: The­ac­tive­woman’s Guideto­health (Blooms­bury, £16.99/£14.99 ebook) should be your first port of call and cov­ers off a whole range of im­por­tant health is­sues. We’ve taken a look at a va­ri­ety of con­cerns that could be stop­ping you reach­ing your full po­ten­tial and how you can over­come them.

Men­tal health

There’s still a sig­nif­i­cant stigma when it comes to dis­cussing men­tal health. Many of us would feel com­fort­able with the idea of go­ing to the doc­tor to dis­cuss a phys­i­cal ail­ment, but shy away from the prospect of talk­ing about the state of our minds. Ab­so­lutely any­one could be silently suf­fer­ing from men­tal health is­sues, but be too ashamed to dis­cuss it out in the open. Your men­tal health can have a pro­found ef­fect on your life. The lat­est es­ti­mates from the Labour Force Sur­vey (LFS) taken in Great Bri­tain in 2016 by the Health and Safety Ex­ec­u­tive found that a grand to­tal of 11.7 mil­lion work­ing days were lost in 2015/2016 as a re­sult of peo­ple suf­fer­ing from stress, de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety.

Your men­tal health can also im­pact your sport­ing per­for­mance, mak­ing you feel less con­fi­dent about your goals. It’s com­pletely nor­mal to feel ner­vous be­fore a big sport­ing event, but an­other thing en­tirely to suf­fer from anx­i­ety. Juliet dis­cusses the ef­fect anx­i­ety can have on your ath­letic abil­i­ties in­sorted: ‘When you’re anx­ious you have high lev­els of stress hor­mones and neu­ro­trans­mit­ters. These in­clude adren­a­line and cor­ti­sol which are re­leased when you’re in a dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tion. This is called your “fight or flight” re­ac­tion, it’s your body’s emer­gency mode which is ac­ti­vated if your sur­vival is at risk.’ As a re­sult, you may start to feel over­whelmed in or­di­nary sit­u­a­tions and un­able to act in the way you nor­mally would.

If you be­lieve that you’re suf­fer­ing from men­tal health prob­lems, it’s im­por­tant to start a con­ver­sa­tion with some­one you can trust, whether that be a friend, fam­ily mem­ber or GP. Shar­ing is def­i­nitely car­ing!


Di­ges­tion is a sim­ple process, but can be made more com­pli­cated if you suf­fer from di­ges­tive is­sues. Even the most com­mon di­ges­tive is­sues can wreak havoc in your daily rou­tine and pre­vent you from liv­ing your life to the full.

Ac­cord­ing to the book, women are twice as likely to suf­fer from Ir­ri­ta­ble Bowel Syn­drome as men and it tends to strike when we hit our twen­ties, but it can start at any age and varies from mildly in­con­ve­nient to se­verely de­bil­i­tat­ing. ‘There’s a lot we don’t un­der­stand about IBS. The bowel seems to sim­ply be­come over-sen­si­tive, lead­ing to a range of symp­toms in­clud­ing ab­dom­i­nal pain, bloat­ing, di­ar­rhoea and con­sti­pa­tion. These symp­toms may come and go and you might not get all of them.’ Deal­ing with di­ges­tive prob­lems such as IBS, acid re­flux and run­ner’s trots can be in­cred­i­bly frus­trat­ing, but there are ways that you can man­age them in or­der to make the most of your ac­tive life­style.

When you ex­er­cise reg­u­larly, it’s cru­cial to be aware of what you’re eat­ing and when you’re eat­ing it. ‘A medium-sized snack or small meal 30 min­utes to two hours be­fore your run is op­ti­mal. The amount of time you need to eat be­fore your run is de­pen­dent upon how you feel. Some peo­ple can run within 15 min­utes of eat­ing and oth­ers can’t move for two hours,’ says Carly Yue, health and fit­ness ex­pert at DW Fit­ness Clubs. ‘Lis­ten to your body and do what is best for you.’ If you can sense your tummy feel­ing ir­ri­tated dur­ing ex­er­cise, try eat­ing ear­lier than you nor­mally would and see if it makes a dif­fer­ence. If you’re un­able to get spe­cific rec­om­men­da­tions from a doc­tor or nutri­tion­ist, then your best bet may be a case of trial and er­ror.


For some rea­son, even though around half the hu­man pop­u­la­tion have pe­ri­ods ev­ery month, the men­strual cy­cle still re­mains some­thing of a taboo sub­ject. There’s noth­ing em­bar­rass­ing about pe­ri­ods, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be an­noy­ing at times. Ex­pe­ri­enc­ing heavy pe­ri­ods can put a mas­sive damp­ener on your mood, not to men­tion put you at risk of leak­age and pre­vent you from ex­er­cis­ing en­tirely. ‘Pe­ri­ods

The ben­e­fits of ex­er­cise go past sim­ply los­ing weight or ton­ing up – phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity can also lift your mood dras­ti­cally

can af­fect ex­er­cise in a num­ber of ways, but gen­er­ally they’re a bit of a pain,’ Juliet writes in­sorted. ‘They can put a com­plete stop to it if your bleed­ing is very heavy or painful. If you’re out of ac­tion for four days a month that’s 48 days a year you won’t be ben­e­fit­ting from ex­er­cise.’ Tak­ing time off from ex­er­cise be­cause of your pe­riod is so frus­trat­ing but un­for­tu­nately, it’s a prob­lem that’s all too fa­mil­iar for many women.

The Fe­male Ath­lete Health Group, a project cre­ated in col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween St Mary’s Univer­sity and Univer­sity Col­lege Lon­don, un­der­took two sur­veys to de­ter­mine how pe­ri­ods af­fect women dur­ing ex­er­cise – in­clud­ing one that sur­veyed Lon­don Marathon com­pe­ti­tions. A to­tal of 1,862 women were sur­veyed in­clud­ing 90 con­sid­ered to be elite ath­letes. Nearly 42 per cent of par­tic­i­pants said that they felt that their men­strual cy­cle did make a dif­fer­ence to their ath­letic per­for­mance. How­ever, that doesn’t mean that ex­er­cis­ing on your pe­riod is a no-no.

There are many meth­ods that you can adopt to make ex­er­cis­ing when you’re on your pe­riod a dod­dle. If you have a heavy flow, you can wear pe­riod pants de­signed to stop leak­ing. If you suf­fer from par­tic­u­larly painful pe­ri­ods, your GP may sug­gest you try tak­ing the pill. Ev­ery­one is unique, so make sure you seek pro­fes­sional ad­vice from your doc­tor if you haven’t yet found a so­lu­tion that works for you.

Com­mon in­juries

Any sea­soned ath­lete will tell you that risk of in­jury is some­thing they have to deal with fre­quently. Hurt­ing your­self is no fun at all, es­pe­cially if it means hav­ing to take time out from ex­er­cis­ing. First and fore­most, the best way to deal with a sport­ing in­jury is to seek treat­ment as early as pos­si­ble. There’s no point in putting on a brave face and keep­ing your mouth shut if you’re in pain. You’ll just end up caus­ing fur­ther in­jury to your­self and feel­ing like a fool for not sort­ing it out sooner.

In­sorted, Juliet talks us through us­ing the PRICE tech­nique as a form of im­me­di­ate first aid to ease pain and help aid re­cov­ery from an in­jury. PRICE stands for: Pro­tect, Rest, Ice, Com­press and El­e­vate. By fol­low­ing these easy steps, you could put a stop to a po­ten­tially se­ri­ous in­jury.

There are many com­mon sport­ing in­juries that you prob­a­bly will have heard of, even if you haven’t ex­pe­ri­enced them per­son­ally. Sprains are over­stretched lig­a­ments that oc­cur ei­ther when you haven’t warmed up prop­erly or haven’t re­cov­ered ef­fi­ciently post-ex­er­cise. Shin splints fre­quently af­fect run­ners, as they can be caused by run­ning on un­even sur­faces or wear­ing the wrong train­ers. Achilles ten­donitis can man­i­fest as a re­sult of putting too much pres­sure on the Achilles ten­don dur­ing in­tense bouts of ex­er­cise. Even if an in­jury seems mi­nor, it’s al­ways bet­ter to be safe than sorry

and sort it out sooner rather than later to avoid fur­ther dam­age.

Keep mov­ing

Ex­er­cise can be just as much a men­tal chal­lenge as it is a phys­i­cal one. Find­ing the drive to go to the gym or head out on a run can be re­ally dif­fi­cult at times, es­pe­cially if you’re deal­ing with an in­jury or a stress­ful sit­u­a­tion is get­ting you down. Re­mem­ber­ing why you’re do­ing what you’re do­ing will def­i­nitely spur you on and give you the lit­tle boost you need to keep go­ing. The ben­e­fits of ex­er­cise go past sim­ply los­ing weight or ton­ing up – phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity can also lift your mood dras­ti­cally. When­ever you’re feel­ing a dip in your mo­ti­va­tion lev­els, just re­mind your­self how pos­i­tive ex­er­cise makes you feel.

Mak­ing sure that you main­tain an ac­tive life­style doesn’t just mean find­ing the time to ex­er­cise. It also in­volves avoid­ing be­ing seden­tary for too long dur­ing the day. Let’s ad­mit it – a lot of us are guilty of sit­ting down for the ma­jor­ity of the day, ei­ther at our desks or on the way to and from work. The Na­tional Travel Sur­vey car­ried out by the Depart­ment of Trans­port in 2015 found that walk­ing is the se­cond most com­mon form of trans­porta­tion, but only for very short dis­tances. The av­er­age time spent walk­ing some­where is a mere 18 min­utes – but find­ing ways to walk more dur­ing the day is ac­tu­ally eas­ier than you think. You can walk up the es­ca­la­tor rather than stand to the side, or get off the bus a cou­ple of stops ear­lier than your usual des­ti­na­tion and walk for 30 min­utes. Just make sure you keep mov­ing!

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